As most of you know I have been studying for the CCIE Storage Networking exam for quite some time. My first goal was passing the written, which involved using a number of sources, many of which I talk about on this website. After passing the written, I needed to find materials for passing the lab. There was really only a few choices at the time I was looking. ieMentor and Firefly. I did a a lot of reading feedback from people who had taken the lab, and I decided to go with ieMentor.
ieMentor offers a few options with regard to CCIE Storage lab study. They offer a workbook which has many focus labs on every technology that is on the CCIE blueprint, and they also offer a walkthrough book which takes you step by step on how to approach the solution. I decided to go with both books. They are offered in color or black and white. Color was not a lot more money, and I found that having the books in color was a big plus. Many diagrams have VSAN information color coded so it’s quite useful to have the books in color. Also included with the books is the complete solutions and many very complete diagrams of all the different lab topologies. ieMentor also offers additional services such as rack time, bootcamps and study assistance. I did not elect for these. I decided to build my own lab rack. I did communicate with ieMentor on many occasions to give some feedback and get clarification on some things in the books that I was not sure if it was a mistake, and I always received prompt service.
I have well over 15 certifications, including a CCIE in Routing and Switching. I have read many study materials and some have been good and others not as good. I am also a Cisco Press alumni, having been a technical reviewer for many books and some at the CCIE level. I can tell you that the quality of these books is better than anything out there. They are very thorough in taking you through each technology. The approach is done is a very well thought out order, first introducing you to basics such as ports and VSAN’s and building all the way up to Intelligent Services. Complete information about equipment capability and differences between newer and older versions of SAN-OS is included. These books go well beyond teaching you what you would need to know for the CCIE Storage lab. The books guide you in understanding the MDS’s and Fibre Channel at the expert level – which should be the goal of any CCIE candidate. It is obvious that a large amount of time and work was spent developing these materials and keeping them up to date. I was able to find some mistakes, however many of these were already caught and being incorporated into addendum at the time. I did receive updates from ieMentor on corrections that have been made to the materials.
The books are bound. It may be better to have them spiral bound, because of the way I like to use the books, but they worked out well. The book goes very in depth on technologies such as IVR, iSCSI/iSLB and FCIP. I find them to be a a lot more clear than the Cisco documentation in many areas. I find that both the Workbook and Walkthrough book are a must have. I would get both. The walkthrough book does not just walk you through the labs in the Workbook. There are actually many pages at the beginning of each chapter/technology that teach you quite a bit about capabilities and configurations of that technology. The walkthrough books are broken down into two volumes, to make handling them easier.
Even though I built my own lab, it is not cheap to do so. I have a hard time with my schedule having a regular amount of time to devote to study, so for me I could not have done it any other way. If someone is able to dedicate a set amount of time for a month or two to study, I would encourage you to look at renting rack time at IEMentor. Their rack matches up to the book exactly, and I can tell you that I spent at least 100 hours in the process of building, assembling, troubleshooting, RMA’ing, shopping, shipping, upgrading and configuring my rack. Yes I learned a lot in the process and it was exciting, but it was also very frustrating and did derail me from studying when I had to deal with equipment issues. One of the hardest parts is finding a place to put it. Storage equipment draws a lot of power, generates a lot of heat and is noisy. You need powerful A/C, this is not something you just stick in a spare room of your home. Luckily at work we have a lab environment.
I interacted with many other people while studying and almost all of the people who had passed the lab or were very serious as I was, were using the ieMentor materials. I did in fact take a class at Firefly. In all fairness this was not a “CCIE level” class, or marketed to be one. Firefly does offer CCIE type classes, this was a HP sponsored couple of day class. It was ok for a splash into storage but nothing very in depth. I had talked to some people who had seen both the Firefly and ieMentor materials and said there is no comparison between the two, ieMentor is a much more thorough product. It was totally worth the investment, there is no way I could have come as far as I have in knowledge just by figuring things out on my own with the Cisco documentation available. ieMentor puts things in such a way as to really make the light bulb flip on inside your head. Yes, you do still have to read all the Cisco documentation and make sure you spend a lot of time on the equipment, but I think ieMentor is the secret sauce that will make things click and give you the confidence that you are ready to tackle the CCIE Storage lab.
I myself have not yet attempted or passed the lab. But I will soon. Regardless of the outcome, I have learned a a lot through using the ieMentor materials. Roman has been successful in navigating his way through 6 CCIE certifications, it’s obvious your in good hands in following in his footsteps. I can honestly say that there is nothing I would change or improve on these materials. They are great! I also took ieMentors advise and got the Fibre Channel Bench Reference, which I also reviewed on my site.
In conclusion I feel the ieMentor materials are a must have for any CCIE Storage Candidate.